Is it true that jack­als can be im­mune to an­thrax?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q&a - Liz Kalaugher

Yes. Black-backed jack­als in Etosha Na­tional Park oc­ca­sion­ally feed on the car­casses of ze­bra, spring­bok and wilde­beest that have been struck down by an­thrax. The her­bi­vores pick up the dis­ease as they munch on plants, by ingest­ing spores of an­thrax bac­te­ria ly­ing dor­mant in soil where ear­lier an­thrax vic­tims fell. Ca­su­al­ties peak to­wards the end of the wet sea­son, in March and April, and the jack­als move in to scav­enge on the bod­ies.

Sur­pris­ingly, these canids don’t tend to catch an­thrax them­selves – car­ni­vores and om­ni­vores are far less sus­cep­ti­ble to the dis­ease than her­bi­vores. Ac­cord­ing to records, just one jackal, three li­ons and nine chee­tahs have suc­cumbed to an­thrax in Etosha since 1975.

How­ever, jack­als are still at risk from other dis­eases. More than 20 in­di­vid­u­als may con­gre­gate at a ze­bra car­cass, in­creas­ing their chance of catch­ing ra­bies or ca­nine dis­tem­per from non-fam­ily mem­bers.

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